Hello. Today I will be looking on the bright side, as I bring you 15 examples of careers which have benefited from WWE becoming more forgiving and opportunistic. The idea came to me the day after Samoa Joe earned a shot at Brock Lesnar’s Universal title. Totally surreal, it felt like I was living in an alternate dimension. I thought back ten years ago when I first saw him in action; when I could only dream of seeing him in a match with Lesnar on a WWE show.
I sit here perplexed over the depth of the WWE roster and how it’s changed so much in the past two-to-three years. NXT, 205 Live, the UK Division, the surge of women’s wrestling, and the signings of some of the biggest names outside WWE has created a land of craziness. I feel it’s only a matter of time til we begin to see serious competition for main event spots.
There’s so many titles, so many brands, and WWE is managing it well. They have the ability to work on fresh talent with less risk, and I believe creative is taking more risk in the booking. Some decisions have been shocking, while others may have been overlooked. My aim is to point out where WWE has done good by its talent, and I hope I’m not the only one to have noticed positive steps in how the company operates. Other names I considered for the list included: Charlotte, Authors Of Pain, Neville, Bray Wyatt, Elias Samson, The Miz, and Naomi.
AJ Styles – Here To Stay.
He might not be WWE Champion, or even US Champion, but it shows WWE and AJ Styles are comfortable as a team. I’m going to say this as I saw a lot of his work in TNA Impact and Japan .. he’s generous. AJ’s rarely had a winning streak as he likes to let other guys win to create competition. WWE knows he’s one of the best in this role, which is why we’ve seen him losing to the likes of Jinder Mahal and Dolph Ziggler on Smackdown.
And the most important thing is he’s happy. I think I’ve only just got used to seeing him in WWE, and that’s great because I know he’s sticking around. It’s only a matter of time til we see him winning the WWE title again .. but if not, he will always have a place on the show because he can play any role against any opponent and make it work. He’s too phenomenal to be let go at this point in his career.
Alexa Bliss – NXT Valet To Multi-Time Champ.
Only a year ago Bliss was in NXT losing to Bayley and Asuka. She’d spent a few years in development, with her biggest claim to fame playing the valet role of the tag team Blake & Murphy. Now she’s a multi-time Women’s Champion, and the first to win the Raw & Smackdown titles. Such a massive rise in a short time, so I think we can forgive her for that infamous “This Is Your Life” segment. Bliss has a job for life, and she’s getting better all the time.
Asuka – Dominance Bubble Must Pop Soon.
I’m not sure what WWE is waiting for .. but I’m eagerly awaiting the day it ends. It’s become clear after she broke Goldberg’s undefeated streak, that Asuka is going to the main roster soon to continue her domination. But when? And how? Doesn’t it get you excited? To not know when this awfully long streak will end? Just think about the champions she could face .. Alexa Bliss (who she’s beat before) and Naomi who would definitely be an underdog. She’s going to be harder to beat than Cena & Reigns combined. Funny thing is .. I’m not joking; she’s going to be invincible.
Bobby Roode – Gloriously Set For The Future.
A very smart move by WWE to poach Roode as he was going to waste away on Impact much like James Storm is at the moment. It still feels unreal seeing the guy who dominated as TNA World Champion currently reign as NXT Champion. The glorious gimmick fits him like an oven mitt, it feels so right and is presented beautifully. Ok, so his character isn’t much different from “The IT Factor”, but I don’t think it needed a change. Roode is another guy who will compete for main event spots when he feels NXT is beneath him. Til then, he’s connecting with WWE fans and growing anticipation for his inevitable and glorious arrival to Raw or Smackdown.
Braun Strowman – Trust & Hard Work.
The biggest thing you have to remember about him isn’t his size, it’s how he completely bypassed NXT and arrived on the main roster with an amazing presence as part of The Wyatt Family. He’s like another Big Show, he was thrown in the deep end and told to swim. And he swam for a while .. but something was missing. He had to let go of his Wyatt brothers who were holding him back.
He became his own character on Raw, as the intensity level went up a notch. He also started working better in the ring; I noticed considerable improvement in everything he did. Such a meteoric rise. I remember when I first saw him .. my initial thought was that he would be a main event star.
He’s not done yet though! At least not with Roman Reigns. He’s got some moments to create before he can carry a brand on his big shoulders. The main thing to take away from this is that WWE trusted Strowman from the beginning, and despite a minor setback (fans getting bored in his matches), they made changes and it’s worked so well it’s put him in a very good place when he returns from injury.
Drew McIntyre – Proving His Worth.
Drew was made in to a joke in his previous run in WWE. It was painful to watch, I hated his 3MB stuff and prayed he would get something better. I was disappointed when he left WWE, but I knew it was for the best. He needed experience, and to prove to himself he could be a star in the business. It was important he worked anywhere and everywhere to make a name for himself under his real name Drew Galloway.
After winning the TNA World title and many other championships around the world, WWE took notice and signed him away from Impact Wrestling with a satisfying deal. He now works in NXT where he looks to fix his broken dreams with championship gold. He has his eyes set on the NXT title, and I think WWE wouldn’t have signed him if they thought he didn’t have the potential to go all the way.
Finn Balor – Time Increases Value.
Multiple time NXT Champion and First Universal Champion Finn Balor is an asset to WWE. They’ve made this clear from the moment he was signed, WWE has done everything to get the best out of him. The injury he sustained came at the worst possible time, it killed all the momentum he brought up from NXT. He’s returned to a different main event scene on Raw, and suddenly it doesn’t feel right to march him hastily in to a brutal fight with Brock Lesnar. Paul Heyman and others have put him over a lot. They are making up for lost time, but it should (yet couldn’t) have been done months ago after he won the title.
It’s difficult to see him booked in the main event scene so soon, even more so when there’s no plan on giving him a title shot. He needs moments on the main roster because he won the Universal title not long after moving up so hasn’t had the time to connect. I reckon some fans question Balor on who he is and what makes him worthy of the spot he holds. Time increase value as memorable moments need preparation, delivery, and aftermath which fans can reminisce over for years.
Goldust – One More Movie To Direct.
For me personally, his recent promos have been highlights of Raw. It almost feels like WWE killed 2017 Goldust so they could replace him with the 90’s version. Ok, so he’s not as creepy in a sexual way, but he’s still pretty hypnotic and clear of his intentions. He’s got everything it takes to be the super villain in his own movie, but only time will tell if WWE will reward him one last decent run as a champion. Either way, I think they’ve done the right thing because he hasn’t been this cool in years.
Jinder Mahal – Super Jobber Creates Hope.
The passion over the fact super jobber Jinder Mahal is WWE Champion is very clear. You either love it, hate it, or you’re unsure so you’re waiting to see where it goes before judging. His accomplishment has been overshadowed somewhat by steroid allegations, and fans pointing out he’s only champion to sell a wrestler of Indian heritage to the Indian market.
There’s also the fact he wasn’t built up to be a main event guy, it happened quicker than some are willing to accept. It was shocking because it went against everything WWE usually does with its booking. It was unpredictable, and depending on who you talk too .. they’ll say it was genius or the stupidest thing they’ve ever seen. The important thing is everyone has an opinion, and the world talks about him. When anyone reaches a certain level of fame there’s always going to be resistance. I’m someone who’s willing to see what Jinder does before I say it was the dumbest decision in the history of WWE.
One thing I have tried to tell fans about this decision is that it represents what WWE says about Smackdown being “The Land Of Opportunity”. I think it extends beyond that, seeing Mahal win the WWE title opens up new possibilities for the future on all the brands. Perhaps we won’t see the same 2-3 guys holding the main belts? Maybe we’ll see stronger competition?
I’m not saying the WWE title needs to be passed around like a hot potato, I’m saying it’s become increasingly possible for jobbers and mid-carders to achieve massive amounts of success if they do the right things in the right places at the right time. WWE is more willing to do this because it’s trying really, really hard to make stars we can label legends in 10-20 years time. It can’t rely on the same old names forever. Jinder’s paving the way for other jobbers to become more than they are .. and I think that’s pretty cool.
Kevin Owens – Always Reliable, Always Relevant.
KO fans don’t need to worry, he’s one of WWE’s favorite talents. He’s been treat exceptionally well since his debut in NXT, and since those days he’s always had something to do. Whether it’s the Universal title, the US title, or a feud with Chris Jericho, Owens can do it all and WWE appreciates his contributions. He took something like the US title and became “The New Face Of America”. He always goes over the top.
It’s clear that while he’s not the top guy on Smackdown at the moment, he still makes what he’s doing the biggest, most important part of the show. He’s got a job as one of the promotions best heels til his retirement, Funny really, because some of his critics said he would be too arrogant and egotistical to handle the WWE environment. KO is not going anywhere, he’s going to keep earning championships for years to come.
Kurt Angle – For The Fans.
There was much negativity from Angle about the way WWE treat him in the later stages of his WWE career. He said he was being pushed to do drugs and other things to get through the pain of injuries sustained from the grueling schedule, yet he also showed his need to be WWE Champion so he could carry the company as the #1 guy. So when he was scheduled to join the ECW brand .. Angle felt it was time to call it quits and go elsewhere.
Despite his injuries, Angle joined TNA Impact and feuded with the undefeated Samoa Joe. Angle was the first to defeat him, and from there he went on to win all TNA titles including multiple World Championships against the likes of Sting and AJ Styles. He was loyal to TNA for ten years. WWE stayed away as they felt he couldn’t control his drinking and it would be too difficult to convince him to return to a full-time schedule. Angle praised Dixie Carter and TNA for giving him the freedom to rest from injuries and work on outside projects; something he didn’t have before.
He put talent over in his retirement tour, and thanked all TNA fans, wrestlers, and company for giving him the opportunity to wrestle. After years apart, WWE and Kurt Angle talked and put the past behind them. WWE fans hoped for his return for years, and they finally got what they asked for with a Hall Of Fame induction, and a position as Raw General Manager. It’s true, it’s damn true!
Pete Dunne – A Diamond In The Rough.
The shining star of the UK division is current UK Champion Pete Dunne. With endorsement from Triple H and others, he brings a unique character and style to WWE. His matches with Tyler Bate have been rated among the highest this year. He’s a rough diamond which needs refinement, but I’ve got no doubt he has the ability to evolve. We have to thank WWE for showcasing British talent to the world, the opportunities provided have been capitalized on and as an English fan I feel proud of their work. Looking forward to more.
Samoa Joe – The Moment Is Now.
Excited to see Samoa Joe get the opportunity to take on Brock Lesnar. Not expecting an upset, however, recent events tell me anything is possible. I love being able to say that. I’ll tell you what I wouldn’t like to see: a squash match, or interference. If Joe has to lose, I would prefer a longer contest where they trade moves like Angle and Lesnar did years past. Joe and Lesnar have Kurt Angle feuds in common, so I’m hoping for something similar.
Joe’s spent years working to this milestone. Former ROH Champion, TNA Champion, NXT Champion, all he’s missing is a top belt on WWE’s main roster. Will WWE let him go one further? Is he the ticket to getting the Universal title back on Raw full-time? Or will Lesnar continue his terrifying part-time dominance? The anticipation is high in this one.
Shinsuke Nakamura – The Slow Road To The Heart.
He’s different in a way which some may find difficult to understand in one viewing. What makes him charismatic? What makes him deserving of title shots? The answer is in his nature. He’s like Yoda from Star Wars, you might think he looks strange .. at first, but listen to his words, watch him fight, and you may grow to like him.
Shinsuke is incredibly respected in the business, some of his performances in Japan and NXT are among the best of recent times. He did what no other main event star in Japan would dare to do, move to America and make it big in WWE. The company has treat him well, they’ve done everything not to push him too quick. He’s been tamed on the main roster a little, we’ve yet to see him deliver performances he’s known for. I think WWE is playing it cool by slowly working Nakamura in to everyone’s heart.
The Hardys – **** That Owl! And The Past.
I documented The Hardys TNA Impact Wrestling run in great detail in a recent series, so I won’t go in to that too much. There was always doubt The Hardys would return to WWE in any capacity after they were released late last decade. Their downward spiral wasn’t pretty, with YouTube videos showing them under the influence of drugs, and other incidents like Matt & wife Reby getting taken in by police for domestic abuse.
Jeff Hardy turned up to a main event on a TNA PPV visibly intoxicated. An audible was called and Sting forcefully planted Jeff to the mat, holding his shoulders down while the referee counted. Jeff tried to kick out, but he was too weak to get out of Sting’s forced pin. It was a disaster, and Jeff was sent home. The company gave him another chance after he recovered from his drug addiction and he’s been a model worker since. The Hardys proved they could be stars in their own right without WWE, and even more so after the invention of The Broken Hardys gimmick.
Much to WWE fans and The Hardys delight, WWE contacted them after negotiations fell flat with Impact Wrestling’s new owners. Once again, WWE could have shown no interest, but they decided it was time to forget the past and give The Hardys a clean slate. They still had to suspend Jeff for 30 days for violating the Wellness Policy from the last time he was in WWE. It was decided to keep their return a secret which provided a memorable Wrestlemania moment which The Hardys earned through years of hard work and creativity.
Last decade I grew tired of the same old names sharing the spotlight in WWE, so I ended up looking elsewhere. Luckily I found many amazing wrestlers, guys who certain people in the business would refer to as “indy/internet darlings”. I grew appreciative of great wrestling matches, and in time I learned that pro wrestling and sports-entertainment are two different entities.
To see guys and girls make names for themselves is special to me. I feel like we spend too much time criticizing minor details, instead of appreciating the hard work and dedication behind it all. It’s never going to please everyone, but at least look for the positives. I like to see talent evolve in all aspects of their game; it’s like creating and nurturing a new life.
WWE has done a terrible job of developing talent in the past, but I think in recent times the work down in NXT combined with input from legends has made it a more natural process. WWE has become less biased, and more open to diversity on all fronts. For that, I cannot blame them for expanding while taking risk because it’s better than the boring, stagnant alternative of sticking to the same old routine.
Do you agree? Or have I been talking baloney? Please let me know in the comments, after I take this moment to thank you for reading through to the end. Your continued support for my work keeps me going as I head towards my 3rd year of writing articles on ewrestlingnews.com – I keep trying for everyone who supports us as I enjoy unlocking my views and opinions. We might not always agree, but I respect your opinions and would never want them to be silenced. I can promise you I’ll be back soon with something completely different.